WATERLOO, the county seat of Black Hawk county, is located almost in the exact geographical centre of the county, and is ninety-three miles west of DuBuque.
Its site was laid out in the spring of 1854, by Charles Mullan and George W. Hanna, two of its earliest settlers, who immigrated to the county about 19 years ago, when this section of country was the abode and hunting ground of the Indians. Within two years after the town plot was surveyed, and duly recorded, it reached a population of over 400 souls, and has continued to increase rapidly up to the present time, and now numbers a population of about 3,500.
The town is beautifully located upon both banks of the Cedar River, at a point where the timber handsomely opens into prairie on either side as if designed by the Creator for a thriving, healthy and populous city. No more beautiful and appropriate site for a town can be easily found in the West.
The prairie slopes back evenly on both sides of the river, affording ample room for the spread of a large city. At this point the Cedar, a stream of about 800 feet in width, has good banks, a fine rock bottom, with water as clear as crystal, and sufficient in quantity to afford power to drive almost any amount of machinery. This water power is improved at present by as good a dam as can be found in the State, and it is the intention of its present owners to perfect it as near as possible by building a race on each end which may be extended to a distance of 80 or 100 rods, thus forming a fall of from 6 to 12 feet, increasing according to the distance projected. This power is at present owned by the Waterloo Mill Company, who have already erected two large flouring mills of three run of burrs each, and also an extensive woolen factory.
On the west end of the water power is Mill Square, which was originally designed solely for buildings for manufacturing purposes, but which has been within the past two or three years built up to a large extent with stores, leaving however ample room yet for the erection of mills, factories, machine shops, etc., a number of which are already contemplated, and will soon be commenced.
This water privilege attracts the attention of all who see it, and will at no late day make Waterloo one of the leading manufacturing places of the State. There are the greatest inducements held out to all who wish to engage in this line of business to come at once and obtain an interest therein either by purchase or lease for a term of years.
A paper and an oil mill are much needed and would prove no doubt a source of great profit to their owners. Just below the dam a good and substantial bridge spans the river. This was built in the summer of 1859, by subscription at a cost of $8000, and when completed it was presented by the town to the county and made free. The Cedar River is navig able for small boats in a common stage of water, as far as this point, and a steamboat made regular trips between Cedar Rapids and this place, a distance of about 100 miles by water, for two successive seasons, during the summers of 1859 and 1860, and proved to its owners a very successful and lucrative enterprise, until the railroad was completed.
The river however, is so crooked in its course that its navigation is impracticable, and will on this account probably never be used to any great extent for this purpose.
Waterloo is well situated for railroad facilities. It is the end of the first grand division of the DuBuque and Sioux City Railroad, which company are now erecting a large round house, that will accommodate twenty-four locomotives when completed, also extensive machine and repairing shops, and a large Hotel and Boarding house. The northern branch of the D. & S. C. R. R. forms its junction here, and is now running its cars to Waverly, a distance of 20 miles, and is soon to be pushed forward to the State line and thence to Minneapolis, or St. Paul in Minnesota. There is also a railroad surveyed from Cedar Rapids to this place which is a link in the great north and south line of road, which will ere long pass through almost the entire length of the Cedar Valley, and connect St. Louis with St. Paul. The Waterloo and DesMoines Railroad connecting this place with the State capital, a distance of about 100 miles, has also been surveyed, and no doubt, will at some future time be built.
These roads when built will make Waterloo quite a railroad center, and will give it superior advantages over many other towns, being in direct connection with Chicago and St. Louis, the two great markets of the East and South, and the extensive lumber region of the North.
Among the principal public buildings of Waterloo, is the Court House. This is situated on the east bank of the river in a sightly location, and is a large and handsome building. It was built of brick in the summer of 1856, at a cost of $40,000, and stands in a large park well fenced, and decorated with shade trees. The county jail is in its basement, and is a secure, comfortable, and well regulated prison.
The Prairie Home Female Seminary, located on a high and beautiful plot of ground on the west side of the river, is also built of brick, and is a large and well proportioned building. This school is in a very flourishing condition, and although but a new institution, having been in operation but a little over two years, its pupils number from 60 to 80.
Miss Anna Field, its founder and principal is a graduate of the widely celebrated Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary, and her school is conducted on the same plan as that Institution. She is rapidly gaining a wide reputation as a first class teacher, and will in time with her corps of able assistants make it one of the best institutions of the State. There are also two large High Schools, built of brick, and two stories high, erected and maintained by the ample and munificent school system of which Iowa is justly so proud. The cost of these buildings does not fall short of $20,000 each. These schools are conducted by good teachers, are well filled with pupils, and will compare very favorably with like institutions of the East.
Church organizations are numerous, and are all in a prosperous condition. The leading denominations are as follows: Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, Congregationalist, Romish, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, Protestant Methodist, Free Will Baptist, Disciples and Cambellites. The first four have good and spacious places of worship erected and are well attended. The others make use of the court house and the different public halls. The town affords many very fine residences which are well and tastefully built, and their surrounding grounds are as a general thing beautified and neatly laid out with shade trees, evergreens and shrubberry. Many more are finely and tastefully arranged, and only need good dwellings to make them comfortable and pleasant homes.
Within the last three or four years the people here have spared no pains in setting out shade trees, and otherwise improving and decorating their residences, public parks and streets. Building material of almost all kinds is abundant, and easy of access. There are good lime stone, brick and lumber, both pine and native. The native woods comprise, namely: oaks, black walnut, butternut, maple (hard and soft,) elm, linn and cotton wood. Pine is used chiefly for building and fencing, and the native woods for furniture and fuel. Pine at present is imported from the Wisconsin pineries, by river and rail via DuBuque, and when the Cedar Valley Railroad is completed to Minneapolis or St. Paul, within the reach of the extensive pine region of Minnesota and Wisconsin, lumber will be shipped direct by rail, and can be sold here at very low rates.
The DuBuque and Sioux City Railroad is also being extended westward very rapidly, and will reach by the coming fall or winter the inexhaustible coal field on the Iowa River about 45 miles west.
In regard to the business of Waterloo, it is shown by the statements of the DuBuque and Sioux City Railroad that its business with that company, both in passengers and freight, is the largest of any station on the road excepting DuBuque. As to its home business, it is but just to say that its streets will show as great a number of teams and its business houses as thronged counters as any town of its size in the State. Its central location, the rich and well settled country surrounding it, cannot but yield it an extensive and a lucrative trade. Its number of business houses are as follows, viz: dry goods stores, 15; groceries, 16; boot and shoe stores, 4; drugs, 3; hardware and tin, 2; clothing, hats and caps, 3; dress goods and millinery, 3; music and musical instruments, 1 ; books and stationery, 3; general provision, 3; crockery, 2; furniture and cabinet ware, 2; watches and jewelry, 3; photographic galleries, 2; plow factory, 1; foundry and machine shop, 1; planing mill and sash, blind and door factory, 1 ; furniture and chair factory, 1; steam saw mill, 1 ; flouring mills, 2; woolen factory, 1 ; grain warehouses, 6. there are two Banks: the First National Bank of Waterloo, M. H. Moore, President, and G. W. Couch, Cashier, and one private Bank.
The professions are represented by fifteen lawyers, ten physicians, eight ministers and two dentists.
The traveling community are well accommodated by three good hotels, and there has also been a company organized to build another of large dimensions, of brick, and three or four stories in height.
Very many dwelling and business houses are being built this summer, but owing to the high prices of material and labor many are deterred that would otherwise build. It would be safe to say that if one hundred houses were built this season it would not supply the demand. Town lots can be bought here on as reasonable terms as in any town of like size, and importance in the West. Waterloo holds out good inducements to actual settlers and those desiring a Western home.   (Hair's Iowa State Gazetteer..., 1865)

City or Town
Black Hawk